Nigeria beat Ghana 2-0 on Wednesday in the first semi – final match at the LSS Stadium in Dakar to reach the final of the 19th edition of the African U-20 Championship.
The Flying Eagles confirmed their berth in the final on Sunday with a goal in each half from Obinna Nwobodo and Musa Muhammed to double Nigeria’s representation in two FIFA World Cups this year: U-17 and U-20 respectively.
Ghana proved their worth as a tough opponent to Nigeria when they took control of the game from the first minute. Nigeria were dominated in all with Ghana dictating the pace and not allowing their opponents to exhibit their style of football.
Striker Benjamin Tetteh and play-maker Yaw Yeboah gave the Nigerian defence so much trouble with consistent raids on the Nigeria goal. The Flying Eagles’ goal- keeper Joshua Enaholo was forced to punch away powerful shot from a free-kick from Midfielder Yeboah at the edge of the box in the 11th minute.
Nigerians broke the deadlock with an opportunity from a corner kick in the 22nd minute though Ghana remained dominant. Ifeanyi Matthew squared a cross that was headed by Obinna Nwobodo for the ball to hit the post before rolling into the net for the first goal.
Ghana maintained their dominance with Yeboah Tetteh and Clifford Aboagye mounting up attack upon attack on the opponents goal. On the half-hour mark, a very skillful move saw Aboagye square to Tetteh who also picked up Yeboah who fired a shot that flew across the face of goal to the relief of the Nigerian defence.
In the 70th minute the Flying Eagles increased their lead since Ghana could not capitalise on their dominance through a counter that saw Satellites’ defender Patrick Asmah fell Ifeanyi for a penalty that was converted by Captain Musa Muhammed.
Nigeria held on to victory and booked a berth against the Winner of the other semi-final between Mali and Senegal on Thursday for a ticket in the final on Sunday March 22, 2015.
Sellas Tetteh – Head Coach, Ghana
“I’m hugely disappointed because we weren’t clinical. We got good looking chances to finish it but we couldn’t. Our opponents got not too clear chances and they scored twice, but that is football. The boys gave everything except the finishing was our problem. We were expecting to go farthest but this is how far we could come. We had two objectives coming into the tournament; qualify for the FIFA U-20 World Cup and go for the ultimate. If we have lost one and got one, we give credit to ourselves. It is difficult that we missed the ultimate in such a situation because we got the opportunity to seal the game.
Nigeria was fortunate to have an early goal and at the time we were pushing they got a penalty and scored the second. I don’t take anything from them. They seized the chance”.
Joseph Owusu Bempah – Captain, Ghana
“We fought our hearts out but things did not go our way. We did our best but did not take our chances and they (Nigeria) punished us by scoring the first goal and later the second from the penalty. We did our best but it was not enough. We will work hard for the third place”.
Manu Garba – Head Coach, Nigeria
“It was a keenly contested game. My boys did not take off early. The best team won. We created a lot of chances and could have scored more than two. Our objective is to be champions and whether it’s Mali or Senegal, we are ready for them”.
Taiwo Awoniyi – Forward, Nigeria
“After reaching the final, we will put in our best to win it. We knew when we qualify for the FIFA U-20 World Cup, it will be easier to win the tournament. We came here to qualify for the FIFA U-20 World Cup and the second objective is to win the trophy. We are ready to make our fans home proud”.
By: Jammeh E.K. Bojang